Willpower vs Mindset

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Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

To put it very simply, willpower is our ability to resist temptation while mindset is our beliefs about ourselves and our basic qualities.  

Imagine that we are all standing around the food table at a party. We have each committed to a challenge to not eat processed foods, but the host and various other attendees at this party are not part of the challenge and may not even know that we are doing it. 

 

On the table is a great selection of food! There are vegetable sticks, mini zucchini fritters, rice paper rolls, cucumber bites an array of dips (some healthy, others highly processed), a fruit platter, mini sausage rolls, mini cakes, chips, cocktail frankfurts and sauce, garlic bread and much more! It’s a big party, by the way!

 

So, what do you choose to eat? Be honest with yourself, you don’t need to let anyone else know! Let’s put some other parameters on it to see how your thoughts about it change!

Scenario 1

The challenge is for 5 days and this is day 4. You haven’t had any processed food since you started the challenge. Our little group are all doing the challenge

together.

Scenario 2

The same as scenario 1 except that no one else at the party actually knows that you are on the challenge!

Scenario 3

The challenge is for 30 days and this is day 15. You haven’t had any processed food since you started the challenge. Our little group are all doing the challenge together.

Scenario 4

The same as scenario 3 except that no one else at the party actually knows that you are on the challenge!

Scenario 5

Unfortunately, you have been diagnosed with an illness and have been advised that eating processed food could be fatal. This challenge is critical to your health and is for life.

Did your answer change about what you would eat with the different scenarios? If it did, why did it change? Was it influenced by accountability, the fact that others knew you were undertaking the challenge? Was it influenced by the length of the challenge? Was it influenced by your commitment to the challenge?

 

Most of us would assume that how successful you are at resisting the processed food comes down to the strength of your willpower, a few would argue that it is about your mindset! So, what is the difference?

 

As I said at the beginning, willpower is our ability to resist temptation while mindset is our beliefs about ourselves and our basic qualities.

 

While they are not the same thing, they are very much linked when it comes to our ability to make changes in our lives. Some of you may not have even thought about eating processed foods regardless of the scenario since you already live that way. This is mindset. You believe that you don’t need those foods and therefore are not tempted by them, so willpower doesn’t come into play at all. Others may usually eat the processed foods, but due to a belief in yourself that you can succeed in the challenge are able to resist the foods and would be seen as having strong willpower. This is mindset supporting willpower. The other side of the coin is where mindset sabotages willpower. That is, you believe that you will struggle with the challenge and therefore, when being presented with temptation, will find that your willpower may slip and you will give in.

 

Studies have shown that the more we need to exert willpower, the more energy it uses to exert it and that eventually we won’t have the energy to resist the temptation. That is why, when trying to succeed at anything relying purely on willpower is bound to be a difficult if not futile journey!

 

However, when we change our mindset about a challenge, we can dramatically increase our chances of success!

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